Knysna and the Garden Route are the ideal family holiday destinations. With many beautiful beaches, endless forests, and majestic mountains, this is a natural playground for adventurers, both big and small. But little minds need constant entertainment, and children are always looking for something exciting to do. Thankfully, when you’re done with the beaches, waterfalls, and lagoons, there is still plenty more to keep your kids occupied.
Here are some unique family activities you can enjoy in the Garden Route:
Whale and Dolphin Watching
Take your kids out on a thrilling boat ride through the heads in search of dolphins and whales in Knysna. The team at Ocean Odyssey run a very smooth operation that gives you the best chance of a close encounter with these beautiful beasts of the sea. These trips depart from Thesen Island in Knysna and venture through the Knysna Heads and along the coastline. A whale spotter high up on the hill will keep a close eye on the ocean as your boat goes in search of Humpback Whales, Southern Right Whales, and the various dolphin species that frequent the Garden Route coast. Nothing will wipe the smile off your child’s and your face as you see a whale breach right in front of the boat or follow a pod of dolphins through the surf at sunset. The best time for whale watching is between July and November each year. While kids of any age can join the whale watching tour, it is not recommended for children under 2 years as they are unable to be seated and self-supported.
Sedgefield Moonlight Meander
The Moonlight Meander run by Garden Route Trail allows you and your kids the opportunity to experience a different side to the beach. Departing just after dark at spring low tide only, the moonlight meader takes place at Gericke’s Point near Sedgefield and is open for all ages although kids need to be able to cover a walking distance of approximately 3.6km. These walks give a unique glimpse into the myriad of marine life found in the intertidal zone. Areas and creatures usually hidden from sight are revealed as you walk along the beach at full moon, peering into rock pools and jumping to avoid waves. Your kids will love looking for the octopus, periwinkles, and starfish on the beach under cover of darkness.
Children of all ages can enjoy birdwatching in the Garden Route. Get your kids excited about the avian world at Birds of Eden in the Crags area. This unique wildlife sanctuary is a giant open-air aviary where rescued birds are given a chance to fly free once again. Here you can see the iconic Knysna Lourie and hundreds of colorful species from all around the globe. The wooden walkways are easily accessible for all ages and allow you to walk through the trees, past waterfalls and ponds, as you encounter different birds along the way. There is also a quaint eatery situated in the middle of the aviary alongside the duck pond where you can stop for a bite to eat. If you prefer to get out for some birdwatching in the natural forest, speak to the team at Beautiful Knysna Villas or Alkira. Our resident bird guide, Tim Carr, has a wealth of knowledge on the area and can customize a birdwatching outing to suit your family.
A Scootour adventure is an entirely unique way to experience the Knysna forest. Kids between the ages of 4 and 9 can ride tandem with an adult on these non-motorized scooters as you enjoy an exhilarating excursion. Children above 10 are able to ride on their own. Your experience starts with a scenic ride into Garden Route National Park. Once deep in the indigenous forest, you will hop on your fat wheeled scooter for a downhill journey on sweeping bends and single track. Be sure to look out for the shy local wildlife along the way, such as bushbuck, wild boar, or even the elusive Knysna elephant.
Plett Puzzle Park
Located past Plettenberg Bay, the Plett Puzzle Park will stimulate both body and mind, no matter your age. The park is home to two equally entertaining activities, both of which can be enjoyed with a combo ticket, which we highly recommend. The forest walk activity involves a gentle meander through the forest to nine different puzzle stations. You are given five minutes to solve the puzzle at hand, be that a riddle, mind game, or visual challenge. The second activity is a giant 3D maze. While you might have done a maze before, the one at the Puzzle Park is quite unlike any other. Set over two levels, this maze sure puts up a challenge as you navigate from corner to corner before trying to find your way out.
Tenikwa Wildlife Sanctuary
Located in the Crags area, past Plettenberg Bay, Tenikwa allows you the opportunity to see lions, cheetahs, leopards, caracals, and servals. The funds from the Big Cat Experience go towards funding Tenikwa’s real work, which is the rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife in the area. This non-profit is committed to caring for creatures of all shapes and sizes, from penguins to blue cranes and African wild cats. While the rescue side of this organization is off-limits to visitors, to ensure that these animals are given the best possible chance at rehabilitation, you can see some of the animals that, unfortunately, cannot be released, such as some marabou storks with broken wings, meerkats that were kept as pets, and spotted eagle owls with missing eyes. Your kids will also learn all about these animals on the tour and how they can protect them. Children of all ages are welcome on the tour with those under five going free. Great precautions are taken to ensure children remain protected by placing them alongside adults to make ‘one larger prey’ in the cat’s eyes.
If you’re visiting the Garden Route in summer, then Adventure Land is where you can really make a splash. Activities here include a 75metre supertube, a raging rapid tube ride, a baby paddling pool, and various slides that are suitable for all ages, even adults! You can also stop at the on-site shop and enjoy a picnic and braai while your kids have endless hours of fun in the waterpark and on the playground.
Go on a game drive
Introduce the little ones to the safari experience with an open-air game drive at Garden Route Game Lodge, located between Mossel Bay and Albertinia. These Big 5 game drives will allow your kids the chance to see rhinos, elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras, and more for the first time. You might even be lucky enough to spot one of the resident cheetahs!
Garden Route Wolf Sanctuary
Located between Knysna and Plett, the Garden Route Wolf Sanctuary offers a truly one-of-a-kind experience in South Africa. It is here where you can see some real-life wolves, with the sanctuary home to two packs of Timber Wolves. Perfect for a fun day out the sanctuary provides a home for abused and abandoned wolves and allows all ages to learn more about these amazing creatures. There is also a play area, picnic spot, and petting zoo on site with lambs, goats, pigs, and even alpacas.